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Crops could be worse

By Mark Newman, Ottumwa Courier, Iowa
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

May 23--OTTUMWA -- Though the air temperature has gone up, the soil in fields remains cold in parts of Iowa. Still, farms in Wapello County are currently doing better than northern farm areas.

Recent agricultural reports warned that due to cold ground, corn planted in Iowa was not "germinating," or starting to come out of the ground.

"On the corn that was planted in April, the cold delayed it," said Mark Carlton, an area crop specialist for University of Iowa Extension Service. "It took that [southeast Iowa] corn about three weeks to emerge as [opposed] to one week. Now, the corn recently planted came up in a week or 10 days."

In northern Iowa and parts of Minnesota, the media reports that farmers are rushing to get corn in the ground.

Carlton estimates locally, from around Wapello County out to about Wayne County, "virtually all, probably 95 percent of corn, is in the ground now."

Part of the concern is about yield. Corn planted later may not give farmers as much product. But there are insurance deadlines to consider, too.

Regions up north have until Monday until their insurance coverage starts getting reduced -- unless they've planted all their corn. Corn growers in Wapello County actually have until June 1 to meet the crop insurance planting date.

That's not to say it's been easy for farmers around Ottumwa, Carlton said.

"We had a week with no rainfall and periods where it was too wet to plant, which kept us out of the fields in April," Carlton said.

He explained that while the mud looked worse last year, there's a certain point where farmers just can't go out in the field. The mud reached that point this year, even though it wasn't as deep as last year.

"One of the big differences was that last year, the subsoils were saturated with water. This year, the subsoil is a little drier, so when it rains, two or three days later, and we're back in the field. Last year, it'd be a week."

Of course, whether rain is good or bad depends on the farmer, he said. One may be hoping rain stays away, while another might wish for rain to help clear the "crust" blocking the growth of their soybeans.

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One factor that will be avoided: Last year, corn planted May 24 had to be abandoned and replanted.

Overall, Carlton said, he is optimistic, and impressed at the farmers getting fields planted under less-than-ideal circumstances.

"This weekend, as long as we don't get 3 or 4 inches of rain, we'll be done planting by crop insurance dates for ... corn and beans. Overall, we're ahead of last year."

-- To follow Mark Newman on Twitter, check out @CourierMark

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(c)2014 the Ottumwa Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa)

Visit the Ottumwa Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa) at www.ottumwacourier.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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